Ah Lian was one of a few female bus drivers to join SBS back in the 1970s. Today, there are a lot more female drivers, she said. The mother of three and grandmother of eight shared that before she started driving, she was given clothes to sew at home but the money just wasn't enough.
So one day, she saw the advertisement for bus drivers and decided to apply. The 75-year-old got paid S$10.50 per day as well as overtime pay, which she said was “a lot of money at the time”. She made over S$1,000 a month and it could buy a lot of things including helping with her children’s education. Her husband was also supplementing the household expenses from his pay as a lorry driver.
She shared that one of her bus routes was from Bukit Merah to Kaki Bukit. Once a week she would get off, but she would continue driving, taking over people’s shifts if possible so she could earn extra money. “It was tough work but I needed the money. Sometimes customers would scold me and I would just be quiet.” And to make matters worse, buses back then had no air condition.
Ten years later, Ah Lian stopped working when her daughter came back to Singapore from her studies abroad and persuaded her to stop.